1 Samuel
Introduction 1-3 The Command to Exterminate Amalek 4-7 Saul Defeats the Amalekites 8-9 Saul Spares Agag and the Best of the Cattle 10-11 The Regret of the LORD 12-15 Saul’s ‘Obedience’ 16-19 Samuel Confronts Saul 20-21 Excuses of Saul 22-23 Why Saul Is Rejected 24-25 Saul Asks for Forgiveness 26-29 Saul Rejected as King 30-33 Samuel Kills Agag 34-35 Saul and Samuel Definitively Separate

1 Samuel 15 is in a way the last chapter about Saul. Here the king himself is rejected after the kingdom has previously been taken from him (1Sam 13:1414But now your kingdom shall not endure. The LORD has sought out for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has appointed him as ruler over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you.”). With 1 Samuel 16 begins a new phase in God’s people, in which David is in the foreground.

God does not simply push Saul aside. The kingdom may be taken away from him, but his person gets another chance. God does this by giving him a task that is easy to carry out. He must completely destroy an arch-enemy of Israel. Anyone who loves God and His people must hate this terrible enemy. Whoever thinks like God should not have the slightest difficulty in exercising this judgment on Amalek. God gives Saul this new, but at the same time last chance. Unfortunately we will see that Saul fails.

The task can be simple, but at the same time is serious. To see the seriousness of it and also to realize that the consequences of failure are serious, we need to know who Amalek is. Amalek is mentioned for the first time in Exodus 17 (Exo 17:88Then Amalek came and fought against Israel at Rephidim.) . There he attacks Israel as soon as the people are delivered from Egypt. It is the first enemy the delivered people will face. Amalek attacks the place where God’s people are weakest and when they are exhausted. In Amalek we can see a picture of the flesh and also of Satan, who controls the flesh.

God has announced that He will destroy Amalek (Exo 17:1414Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this in a book as a memorial and recite it to Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”). But God also has patience with Amalek. In the book of Numbers we find a second clue of the judgment on Amalek (Num 24:7b7“Water will flow from his buckets,
And his seed [will be] by many waters,
And his king shall be higher than Agag,
And his kingdom shall be exalted.
). There the downfall of Amalek is connected with the arrival of the great King. As a foreshadowing thereof David, and not Saul, will completely defeat Amalek. Thus will the Lord Jesus let cast the devil into the abyss and accept His reign (Rev 20:1-61Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand.2And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years;3and he threw him into the abyss, and shut [it] and sealed [it] over him, so that he would not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were completed; after these things he must be released for a short time.4Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I [saw] the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.5The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection.6Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.). In his farewell speech Moses recalls the extermination of Amalek (Deu 25:1919Therefore it shall come about when the LORD your God has given you rest from all your surrounding enemies, in the land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance to possess, you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you must not forget.). As Moses points out, the picture shows that the flesh will work easily and that we will then be an easy prey for Satan when we are weak.

The Command to Exterminate Amalek

1Then Samuel said to Saul, “The LORD sent me to anoint you as king over His people, over Israel; now therefore, listen to the words of the LORD. 2Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘I will punish Amalek [for] what he did to Israel, how he set himself against him on the way while he was coming up from Egypt. 3Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’”

Samuel comes to Saul. He first reminds Saul of his anointing. This anointing was not Samuel’s own initiative. He anointed Saul on the explicit command of the LORD. Anointing is done with a view to a service for the LORD, to which obedience to the words of God is directly linked. Samuel says directly to Saul that he must listen to the words of God.

Anointing and obedience to God’s Word belong together. That also applies to us. We are anointed as well, with the Holy Spirit. We may be held accountable for what we are.

Samuel passes on the words of the LORD who presents Himself as the LORD of His hosts. He gave Saul command of the Israel’s hosts. He is the true King, both over all that is on earth and over the hosts and a kingdom higher than the earth. He reminds Saul of what Amalek did to Israel and how He judges that (Deu 25:17-1817“Remember what Amalek did to you along the way when you came out from Egypt,18how he met you along the way and attacked among you all the stragglers at your rear when you were faint and weary; and he did not fear God.). Amalek stood in Israel’s way when the people were freed from Egypt by him.

God has long patience with His enemies and those of His people, but once comes the reckoning. Now the judgment must be exercised and that judgment must be total. Nothing but the absolute authority of God justifies this judgment. This fight will not enrich Israel: all people and animals must be killed.

Saul Defeats the Amalekites

4Then Saul summoned the people and numbered them in Telaim, 200,000 foot soldiers and 10,000 men of Judah. 5Saul came to the city of Amalek and set an ambush in the valley. 6Saul said to the Kenites, “Go, depart, go down from among the Amalekites, so that I do not destroy you with them; for you showed kindness to all the sons of Israel when they came up from Egypt.” So the Kenites departed from among the Amalekites. 7So Saul defeated the Amalekites, from Havilah as you go to Shur, which is east of Egypt.

Saul is preparing for the battle. It seems that he obeys the LORD. He calls the people and a large army comes up. That is something else than the six hundred men he had with him some time ago in his fight against the Philistines (1Sam 14:22Saul was staying in the outskirts of Gibeah under the pomegranate tree which is in Migron. And the people who [were] with him [were] about six hundred men,). Jonathan’s victory and its results have given the people the courage to go to battle again.

Saul counts them at Telaim, which means ‘lambs’. He counts them as lambs. He is not overconfident either, but works with consultation. The setting of an ambush indicates this. Before attacking Amalek, he does a favor to the Kenites.

The Kenites belong to the Midianites. From there came also the father-in-law of Moses (Jdg 1:1616The descendants of the Kenite, Moses’ father-in-law, went up from the city of palms with the sons of Judah, to the wilderness of Judah which is in the south of Arad; and they went and lived with the people.; Num 10:2929Then Moses said to Hobab the son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses’ father-in-law, “We are setting out to the place of which the LORD said, ‘I will give it to you’; come with us and we will do you good, for the LORD has promised good concerning Israel.”). The Kenites have been connected to Israel by Moses and have proved to the people a blessing in the person of Jethro. Saul acknowledges the friendliness that their ancestors have proven to Israel when they came from Egypt. Jethro and his family have helped and served Israel in their journey through the wilderness (Num 10:29-3129Then Moses said to Hobab the son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses’ father-in-law, “We are setting out to the place of which the LORD said, ‘I will give it to you’; come with us and we will do you good, for the LORD has promised good concerning Israel.”30But he said to him, “I will not come, but rather will go to my [own] land and relatives.”31Then he said, “Please do not leave us, inasmuch as you know where we should camp in the wilderness, and you will be as eyes for us.).

From this we can learn that those who come after us can benefit from our good works when we are no longer there. God is not unjust to forget even one kindness that has been shown to His people (Heb 6:1010For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.). He will reward every good deed, if it is not already on earth, then certainly in the resurrection.

Another lesson is that it is dangerous to be found in the company of God’s enemies. Here the Kenites are warned to leave. This warning is still valid today. It is our duty and our interest to depart from any company that does not put the Lord Jesus in the center, so that we do not have fellowship with the sins of that company and do not receive the plagues that come upon it (Rev 18:44I heard another voice from heaven, saying, “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues;). The Jews have a saying: Woe to the wicked, and woe to the neighbor.

When the Kenites departed from the Amalekites, Saul defeats Amalek. It is more a killing of convicted criminals than a war against fighting enemies. The result cannot be questionable, because the matter is fair and the vocation is clear. Saul executes the LORD’s command.

Saul Spares Agag and the Best of the Cattle

8He captured Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. 9But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were not willing to destroy them utterly; but everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed.

Saul’s obedience is not complete. He kills all the people of Amalek, but he spares their king. The people are also disobedient, but Saul is mentioned first in not fully executing God’s command. He confirms the serious truth of Romans 8 (Rom 8:7-87because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able [to do so],8and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.) .

The best is spared. Saul and the people do not want to judge this. It is a question of their will. It is a picture of a man in the flesh who wants to do away with the worst excesses, but spares everything that seems to be good. That is a denial of the depravity of the flesh in itself and disobedience to the Word of God.

No one shall condone drunkenness or fornication doctrinally. But when it comes to religious rituals and legal formalism or an unequal yoke with an unbeliever in the work of the Lord, one talks differently. All of that can be spared, on the pretext that it can be devoted to the Lord’s service.

The sin of Saul and of anyone who deals with these things in this way is giving an own interpretation of what God has said. Such interpretations are always given with an eye to one’s own desires and the desires of the people of God, while ignoring God’s explicit command.

The Regret of the LORD

10Then the word of the LORD came to Samuel, saying, 11“I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me and has not carried out My commands.” And Samuel was distressed and cried out to the LORD all night.

Then comes the word of the LORD to Samuel. The LORD tells Samuel of Saul’s disobedience and what is the consequence thereof. He decides to reject Saul and announces this to Samuel. The LORD says that He regrets that He has appointed Saul king.

If God regrets anything, it is not because He has to come back to a wrong decision made by Him. Regret in God is not what it is in us. In us it is a change of meaning and will, but with Him it is a change in His method. He does not change His will, but He wants a change. His regret is not the result of an act of Himself, but of man’s actions. God’s regret shows that He is deeply sad about what man has done with what He has given him, not about what He Himself has done. He never needs to revoke anything (verse 2929Also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind.”). Although God knows everything in advance, including the evil that will happen, He is full of sadness when that evil happens.

Samuel’s reaction to what the LORD tells him shows that he is a true man of God. He gets angry with Saul and at the same time he calls to God all night for this one man. anger and grief can go together, as we read of the Lord Jesus (Mk 3:5a5After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, He *said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored.). There is anger about sin and grief about the sinner. Samuel is the great prayer who has said that he will not cease to pray for the people (1Sam 12:2323Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you; but I will instruct you in the good and right way.). His calling to God indicates a deep inner involvement and a great movement of mind.

Saul’s ‘Obedience’

12Samuel rose early in the morning to meet Saul; and it was told Samuel, saying, “Saul came to Carmel, and behold, he set up a monument for himself, then turned and proceeded on down to Gilgal.” 13Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed are you of the LORD! I have carried out the command of the LORD.” 14But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?” 15Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and oxen, to sacrifice to the LORD your God; but the rest we have utterly destroyed.”

Samuel must convey the message of God to Saul. He did not sleep that night, but called to God. From that fellowship with God he goes to Saul. Before he meets Saul, he is told where Saul is, what he did and where he then went. God supports His servant in his task.

The fact that Saul has erected a monument for himself shows that he is looking for his own honor (cf. 2Sam 18:1818Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and set up for himself a pillar which is in the King’s Valley, for he said, “I have no son to preserve my name.” So he named the pillar after his own name, and it is called Absalom’s Monument to this day.). The word “monument” is literally “hand”, symbolizing his actions, what he has accomplished. Now he is in Gilgal. Samuel follows him until there. There everything becomes public.

Saul does not take the place that suits him against the man of God. He doesn’t wait until Samuel starts. He doesn’t ask what Samuel comes for, but immediately takes the floor, to praise himself and to tell how obedient he has been. Saul deceives his own conscience through his words. He takes the initiative because he feels that he has not been obedient. The presence of a man of God like Samuel can only make him restless about his incomplete execution of the command. This is how it is when we come to someone who lives with the Lord, while we fill in our lives with the Lord in a loose way.

Samuel is not deceived by the elation with which Saul meets him and the testimony he gives about himself. First, Samuel is informed by the LORD of the reality of Saul’s actions. Secondly, Samuel points to the evidence that Saul was not obedient. He hears the bleating of sheep and the lowing of the oxen. How is this possible, when he has exterminated everything according to the LORD’s command?

Saul’s pompous talk of devotion to the LORD is being denied by the noise of the spared sheep and oxen. Anyone who says that he is full of the Lord, but does not read the Bible or thinks he does not need the upbuilding of his faith in Christian meetings, shows the same contradiction. The deeds show the lie of the words. What is spared of the flesh contradicts a confession of devotion. There is the same arbitrariness with such believers as with Saul. Later on we see Saul does thoroughly act against Abimelech, whom he suspects of sympathy for David. He spares nothing from him (1Sam 22:1919And he struck Nob the city of the priests with the edge of the sword, both men and women, children and infants; also oxen, donkeys, and sheep [he struck] with the edge of the sword.).

The bleating of the sheep and the lowing of the oxen are like the rust of gold and silver (Jam 5:3a3Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure!). The beautiful confession is contradicted by the practice. It is nothing new that beautifully-looking confessions of obedience to God’s commandments are at odds with giving in to the flesh and love of the world. If the beautiful confession sounds that nothing on earth has value but the Lord Jesus, while we live in large and luxuriously furnished houses and drive expensive cars, that confession is not worth much.

Saul not only presents things better than they are, he also lies. He has spared the best himself (verse 99But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were not willing to destroy them utterly; but everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed.), but he blames others by saying that the people did it. This is the old shear-off system. It has already been put into practice by Adam and Eve. He also speaks three times about “the LORD your God” (verses 15,21,3015Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites, for the people spared the best of the sheep and oxen, to sacrifice to the LORD your God; but the rest we have utterly destroyed.”21But the people took [some] of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the choicest of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the LORD your God at Gilgal.”30Then he said, “I have sinned; [but] please honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and go back with me, that I may worship the LORD your God.”). Indeed, it is not his God, but only Samuel’s. He has no bond with God.

How David reacts very differently when the sword of judgment hangs above the people (2Sam 24:1717Then David spoke to the LORD when he saw the angel who was striking down the people, and said, “Behold, it is I who have sinned, and it is I who have done wrong; but these sheep, what have they done? Please let Your hand be against me and against my father’s house.”). Moses also wanted to be exterminated out of God’s book himself, and that for a disobedient people (Exo 32:3232But now, if You will, forgive their sin—and if not, please blot me out from Your book which You have written!”). Above all, the Lord Jesus reacted very different, who says: “If you seek Me, let these go their way” (Jn 18:88Jesus answered, “I told you that I am [He]; so if you seek Me, let these go their way,”).

Samuel Confronts Saul

16Then Samuel said to Saul, “Wait, and let me tell you what the LORD said to me last night.” And he said to him, “Speak!” 17Samuel said, “Is it not true, though you were little in your own eyes, you were [made] the head of the tribes of Israel? And the LORD anointed you king over Israel, 18and the LORD sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are exterminated.’ 19Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD, but rushed upon the spoil and did what was evil in the sight of the LORD?”

Samuel has enough of Saul’s justifications and silences him. He must tell what God said to him last night. Saul gives in and gives Samuel the opportunity to speak. Samuel doesn’t go directly to the heart of the matter. He introduces the actual message by reminding Saul of a few things. He recalls him his humble beginnings and how he was then in his own eyes and how he had become the head of the tribes of Israel. He also reminds Saul that this was a matter from the LORD.

The act of anointing was done by Samuel, but Samuel did it on behalf of the LORD. All that Saul has become he is through the LORD. This is in stark contrast to the monument he erected for himself. He has seen himself gradually grow bigger. As he has grown in his own eyes, the LORD has disappeared from his field of vision.

The anointing by the LORD means that he depends for everything on the LORD and that he receives his commands from Him. Thus the LORD has given him the clear command to exterminate the Amalekites. For this he would have to fight, but in doing so he could have count on the strength of the LORD.

After Samuel has recalled Saul of what the LORD has done with him, and of the clear commission which the LORD has given him, he asks Saul a question. The question is not whether he has carried out the command, but why he has not carried it out. Disobedience is established and no longer needs to be proved or acknowledged. It is about whether Saul wants to acknowledge his disobedience honestly and repent of his disobedience. Samuel paints the disobedience in bright colors. He states that Saul was “rushed upon the spoil” and that he did “did what was evil in the sight of the LORD”.

Excuses of Saul

20Then Saul said to Samuel, “I did obey the voice of the LORD, and went on the mission on which the LORD sent me, and have brought back Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. 21But the people took [some] of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the choicest of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the LORD your God at Gilgal.”

It appears that the conscience of Saul is no longer reachable. He defends himself against Samuel’s clear charges. He points out once again that he has carried out the LORD’s task. He destroyed the Amalekites, didn’t he? The fact that he has saved Agag is not allowed to have a name. Only a grumbler like Samuel pays attention to that.

Except to belittle his disobedience and in fact to wave it away, Saul refers again to the people, to what they have done. Indeed, they did not quite do what God said, but they did it with the best intentions. They have spared the best of the cattle to bring it to the LORD. Do you see that they have thought of the LORD?

But what impression does one have of the holiness of God? Saul acts according to the principle: “Let us do evil that good may come” (Rom 3:88And why not [say] (as we are slanderously reported and as some claim that we say), “Let us do evil that good may come”? Their condemnation is just.). We act on this principle if we want to justify what is, in reality, clear disobedience.

Why Saul Is Rejected

22Samuel said,
“Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
As in obeying the voice of the LORD?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
[And] to heed than the fat of rams.
23“For rebellion is as the sin of divination,
And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the LORD,
He has also rejected you from [being] king.”

Samuel tells Saul that the LORD is not interested in his sacrifices, but in his obedience to Him and his listening to Him. This is a timeless principle. It applies anytime and anywhere. Our whole relationship with God begins with listening and our whole relationship with God is maintained by listening. This listening must be done in an attitude, a mind of obedience.

Samuel starts with obeying. Only when there is a willingness to obey there can and will also be listened to and understood what God says. God doesn’t want our good intentions, because they stem from our own ideas about serving Him. We think that He can be very satisfied with our sacrifices, mentally or physically. It is important that we make these sacrifices to Him, but the one question is what our motive is. It is not only important that we do something. It is especially important that we do what He wants and that we do it because He says it. That also determines the time of our acts.

Scripture never says that appearance is unimportant. The sacrifice is important. However, it has no meaning for God if the inner being is not in agreement with it. God wants both, but first He wants obedience. He prefers obedience to sacrifice, for He despises all sacrifices if the heart is not obedient. If the heart is obedient, He accepts the sacrifices with great joy. The fat of rams is the very best of the sacrificial animal, but listening is much better.

It is much easier to bring a cow or a lamb to be burned at the altar than to act with every high thought as it is written: “Destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and [we are] taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2Cor 10:55[We are] destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and [we are] taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,) and subject our will to His will. Obedience is the fame of the angels (Psa 103:2020Bless the LORD, you His angels,
Mighty in strength, who perform His word,
Obeying the voice of His word!
) and is also our fame.

If God is pleased with us and our services, then we are happy, then we have reached our goal. However, if we follow our own will, believing that we are serving Him, He says to us: “What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?” (Isa 1:1111“What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?”
Says the LORD.
“I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
And the fat of fed cattle;
And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats.
). Now we are clearly told here that humble, sincere and meticulous obedience to the will of God is more pleasing to Him than all burnt offerings and sacrifices. Careful listening and doing what He says is more pleasant to God than to perform all kinds of religious acts (Ecc 5:11Guard your steps as you go to the house of God and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they do not know they are doing evil.; Mic 6:6,86With what shall I come to the LORD
[And] bow myself before the God on high?
Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings,
With yearling calves?
8He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the LORD require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?
; Hos 6:66For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice,
And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
; Mt 9:1313But go and learn what this means: ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”; 12:77But if you had known what this means, ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT A SACRIFICE,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.).

Saul was not obedient, but rebellious and insubordinate. He resisted the will of God. God has given him a command, and he has not fulfilled it. Samuel calls rebellion a “sin of divination,” for rebellion against God means turning away from God and turning to demons. Saul has also been insubordinate. He did not allow himself to be corrected. Samuel calls it “iniquity and idolatry”. If one sets one’s own standard higher than that of God, it is idolatry, for one’s own self is worshipped, not God. One’s own will is placed above the will and honor of God. Offers from such a person mean nothing to God.

Disobedience is in reality rebellion and is closely linked to satanic powers of sorcery. Thus Satan enchanted Eve and made her to revolt against God. On the basis of this behavior, which clearly showed that Saul rejected the word of the LORD, Saul is rejected from being king.

Saul Asks for Forgiveness

24Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned; I have indeed transgressed the command of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and listened to their voice. 25Now therefore, please pardon my sin and return with me, that I may worship the LORD.”

Saul acknowledges that Samuel’s command was a command of the LORD. He acknowledges that he has sinned, but it is not accompanied by a sorrow that is according to the will of God. We also see such a confession with Pharaoh and with Judas, who both said: “I have sinned” (Exo 10:1616Then Pharaoh hurriedly called for Moses and Aaron, and he said, “I have sinned against the LORD your God and against you.; Mt 27:44saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See [to that] yourself!”), but without them doing repentance for sin.

Saul does not take full responsibility for the debt. He still blames the people for fear of the consequences of his actions. He is afraid of the people and listens to their voice instead of God’s voice. He fears the people instead of God. Such a person is unfit to rule. “Fear of man [someone] lays a trap” (Pro 29:2525Fear of man [someone] lays a trap,
But those who rely on the LORD are put in a safe fortress.

Saul has no personal relationship with God. He looks at what is in view and seeks support from Samuel. If Samuel would forgive his sin and wants to return with him, he will put it right again with God.

Saul Rejected as King

26But Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you; for you have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel.” 27As Samuel turned to go, [Saul] seized the edge of his robe, and it tore. 28So Samuel said to him, “The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to your neighbor, who is better than you. 29Also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind.”

Samuel does not allow to be manipulated. He sticks to what God has told him and repeats this for Saul as the reason for his decision. Samuel remains at the side of God. When Samuel wants to leave, Saul seizes the edge of his robe. He wants to keep Samuel with him by force.

This again self-willed act of Saul causes a tear in Samuel’s robe. Samuel connects to the tearing of his robe directly a message from the LORD. He explains the tearing of his robe as a symbolic act for the fact that the LORD has taken away the kingship of Saul. Samuel adds that the kingship will be given to a “who is better than” he. Samuel does not mention a name, but we know it is David.

Samuel then gives a testimony about the incorruptibility of God and the immutability of His intentions. God is the Unchanging of His people. He doesn’t have to come back to anything because He would have made a wrong decision. Thus He does not have to return here to the judgment of Saul, as if He had passed judgment too quickly. He is not a man who would lie about a decision He has made or should regret (Num 23:1919“God is not a man, that He should lie,
Nor a son of man, that He should repent;
Has He said, and will He not do it?
Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?

A human being makes mistakes. As a result, he may have consequences that he would like to undo but cannot. This is not the case with God. God knows what He does. God perfectly oversees all the consequences of His actions. This has nothing to do with probability, but with His perfect knowledge of the person He Himself created. God knows what He can hold man responsible for and what He can expect of him. He does not overpower man.

If man fails in his responsibilities, it is due to man himself. God’s knowledge that man will fail is related to His omniscience. He is God. The failure of the human being does not overtake him. Man’s failure is not the result of God’s wrong decision, but of man’s wrong decisions. That God also uses man’s failure to fulfill His plans of grace is a matter that we humans cannot explain. In this God asks us to trust Him.

Samuel Kills Agag

30Then he said, “I have sinned; [but] please honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and go back with me, that I may worship the LORD your God.” 31So Samuel went back following Saul, and Saul worshiped the LORD. 32Then Samuel said, “Bring me Agag, the king of the Amalekites.” And Agag came to him cheerfully. And Agag said, “Surely the bitterness of death is past.” 33But Samuel said, “As your sword has made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women.” And Samuel hewed Agag to pieces before the LORD at Gilgal.

Once again Saul pronounces that he has sinned (verse 3030Then he said, “I have sinned; [but] please honor me now before the elders of my people and before Israel, and go back with me, that I may worship the LORD your God.”; verse 2424Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned; I have indeed transgressed the command of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and listened to their voice.), but again because of the consequences and not because of the deed. Also here it appears why he wants Samuel to go with him. He is only interested in his own honor for the people. He wanted to keep himself high. The people look high up against Samuel. If he could secure Samuel’s company, his position with the people would be guaranteed. Saul seeks external, human grip and then promises to worship the LORD.

Remarkably enough we read that Samuel meets Saul’s wishes. Is it because he has a weakness for Saul? In the next chapter we see how much Samuel is attached to Saul. It resembles the weakness Paul has for his Jewish brothers who are zealots for the law and in which Paul is persuaded to act below his position as a believer delivered from the law (Acts 21:20-2620And when they heard it they [began] glorifying God; and they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed, and they are all zealous for the Law;21and they have been told about you, that you are teaching all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs.22What, then, is [to be done]? They will certainly hear that you have come.23Therefore do this that we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow;24take them and purify yourself along with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads; and all will know that there is nothing to the things which they have been told about you, but that you yourself also walk orderly, keeping the Law.25But concerning the Gentiles who have believed, we wrote, having decided that they should abstain from meat sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication.”26Then Paul took the men, and the next day, purifying himself along with them, went into the temple giving notice of the completion of the days of purification, until the sacrifice was offered for each one of them.). Saul also keeps his word and worships before the LORD. But what is the point of this tribute to the LORD if the heart has not really changed?

It is also possible that Samuel goes with Saul to finish what Saul should have done. He orders that Agag, whom he calls “the king of the Amalekites”, be brought to him. It seems as if Agag is coming whistling because he thinks he will be spared. It is impossible to determine whether such a thought is stupidity or overconfidence on the part of Agag. In every fall his optimism is unfounded. His optimism also shows the complete lack of repentance for his atrocities.

Before Samuel passes judgment on Agag, he tells him his crimes. Then Samuel, the old prophet, does what Saul should have done, to his shame, and cuts Agag into pieces. It says that he does it “before the LORD at Gilgal”. Samuel acts in accordance with God’s thoughts and not out of vengefulness.

Agag reaps what he has sowed. He is rewarded for his deeds. The spiritual lesson is clear. With “the sword of the Spirit, that is the Word of God” (Eph 6:17b17And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.), the flesh is hewn down in its most beautiful and royal form, in which it is so often spared. Here all ‘Sauls’ of all generations fail. The powers that exist destroy what is wrong to a certain extent, but they do not judge as God judges. The sword can only be stretched over Agag by the hand of a prophet.

Saul and Samuel Definitively Separate

34Then Samuel went to Ramah, but Saul went up to his house at Gibeah of Saul. 35Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death; for Samuel grieved over Saul. And the LORD regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel.

Then the ways of these two men separate. The man who represents the Word of God must turn away from him who has made himself totally unworthy of his company and the trust placed in him.

The farewell will be final. Samuel will not see Saul until the day of his death. For Samuel it is a farewell that hurts him and about which he is sad. Samuel really loved Saul. He sees how this hope of Israel has failed and has been rejected by God.

Humanly speaking, it is understandable, but here too God must reprimand him, as we see in the first verse of the next chapter (1Sam 16:1a1Now the LORD said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and go; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have selected a king for Myself among his sons.”). That does not mean, however, that, again humanly spoken, the LORD is not touched. Finally, we read once again that He regrets that He has appointed Saul king over Israel. The LORD grieves over the end of Saul’s life.

Read more